I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Jesus tells a parable of two men going to the temple to pray.
One man is a pharisee and he prays, according to Jesus, to himself. The Pharisee is thinking about himself as he prays, not getting his eyes and his focus on God. His prayer never leaves the temple. This man’s sins remain.
The other man is a tax collector. These men were considered traitors and swindlers and agents of a corrupt system. So, not much different than modern Americans view the IRS. This guy goes down to the temple and finds an out-of-the-way corner and curls up and is striking at his chest, knowing the wrong heart contained therein. He prays that God would be merciful to him. He knows he does not deserve it. He knows that God has no reason to show him mercy aside from mercy being in God’s character. His prayer gets to the heart of God. This man is forgiven.
The difference is stark. One man is so proud that his words never leave the temple while the other begs for mercy and receives it. One man is praying to himself and does not know it while the other pleads with Almighty God and knows it very well.
Which am I? My prayers should be marked by the knowledge that coming into God’s presence at all is a privilege that I should not be afforded. My unworthiness should humble me and lead me to beg mercy of God.
As I prayed this morning, I found myself thinking about deeply personal matters and realizing something that had not occurred to me before. While I and others involved with the situation have been praying for resolution in a particular vein, I am not certain that any of us considered asking God to change things on the other side of the coin. There are two of us involved in the matter and we have both been praying for the other person to be changed, but God asked me whether or not I could accept it if the change needed was me. Would I be willing to accept that?
Then He reiterates the message with this verse. One man is humble and receives what he asks: justification; right standing with God. The other man is proud and does not think that he needs to change. He gets nothing.
Which one am I? Am I proudly damned or humbly justified?